Katsura Taro: From Drummer-Boy To Army Minister

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2014-09-26
Authors
Yanagihara, Tomoyo
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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In her book Practicing History, Barbara Tuchman reminds her readers that a biography is a means by which the reader becomes acquainted with a particular period in history in which the protagonist supplies the lead to many events and introduces a wide range of interesting people he meets. A biography is also a narrative of an individual; of how he lived and of his accomplishments. This paper is an account of the life and times of Katsura Taro, who sought to become a soldier in Japan’s Imperial Army at a time when Japan was looking to the West to choose those institutions which would be useful for the country’s present and future developments. It was a time when the feudal institutions of Tokugawa Japan were being reformed by visionary leaders who were seeking to strengthen their country with Western arms and knowledge. The years from 1847 to mid-1901 spanned the last two decades of the Tokugawa rule and three decades of the Meiji period, paralleling Katsura’s birth and his rise to power in the political world. This period saw some of the most profound changes in Japanese history; how internal and external forces opened “Japan’s doors” to the West and how the forces caused the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate and restored the country to Imperial rule. Katsura Taro belonged to the generation of samurai children who were born in the declining years of the Tokugawa period, but with the spirit of bushido (way of the warrior) still very much alive, they were educated and disciplined in the samurai ideals of honor, duty, loyalty, courage, and self-sacrifice, together with the Confucian ethics of filial piety.
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97 pages
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